Consortium takes over Join In

Join in, the Olympic legacy volunteering project is in new hands. I’m interested, and excited to see that the consortium led by the Sport and Recreation Alliance includes the Do-it Trust – the recently revamped volunteer matching site, Volunteering Matters, Jump and VolunteerKinetic – a web-based volunteer management system. Having worked with several of these organisations I am quite optimistic for the future of sport volunteering.

For more information see ivo article.

Two great toolkits to copy

Here are some really useful resources that will help anyone managing volunteers for a club, an organisation or an event. They have been produced by large, reputable bodies and are freely available. So take a look, and start editing and adapting what helps you.

Adult Volunteer Management Toolkit from the DofE

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is the phenomenally successful scheme that challenges young people to learn skills, volunteer and embark on an expedition. The charity, which is celebrating it’s diamond anniversary this year, has transformed the lives of 2 million young people since it started 60 years ago.

Graphic showing 2 million young people have achieved their DofE

2016 is Diamond Challenge year https://dofediamondchallenge.org/

This toolkit is for adult volunteers who support organisations that are delivering DofE awards  – not to be confused with guidelines that are given to young people taking the award. The toolkit is mega! It has every template you could ever need, it’s downloadable and it’s just been updated. So if you are looking for good practice to copy – applications forms, interview questions, induction checklists plus guidelines to help you write your volunteer policy and handbook – it is all here. In fact it has 23 document templates that you might need for managing volunteers. It is a gem. Thank you DofE for doing such a great job.

Download the toolkit here: http://www.dofe.info/go/adultvolunteers/

Volunteer toolkit from England Athletics

Image of booklets that make up the toolkit

England Athletics Volunteer toolkit is aimed at clubs

This helpful resource separates into sections focusing on recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteers in a club environment. It also has a useful list of volunteer role descriptions and some editable posters to advertise volunteer opportunities.

Download the toolkit here: http://www.englandathletics.org/volunteer/volunteer-toolkit

 

How do you manage a mix of volunteers?

So you’ve worked hard recruiting volunteers for your big sports event. You’ve got local people engaged, maybe some volunteers who have helped at other big events, and you’ve got the regular bunch of helpers who know your sport inside out. How do you throw all of these people at an event and make sure it works? How do you manage a mix of volunteers with different backgrounds and experiences? This is how we did it at the World Orienteering Championships held in Scotland in  2015.

We appointed Team Leaders to manage specific functions. Some of these Leaders were sport specialists and others had specific technical skills. Each of these “Functional Team Leaders” managed a strand of the event delivery. They knew their function in detail and they were supported by the Volunteer Management Team who took care of all generic volunteer administration and communications. Here is how the Volunteer Management Team confirmed the process and responsibilities with the Functional Team Leaders:

Functional team leaders responsibilities for volunteers Functional team leaders responsibilities for volunteers2 Functional team leaders responsibilities for volunteers3

It’s a World Champs, we’ll need 100s of volunteers, and it’s 500 miles away….

“Congratulations to the organisers and army of volunteers who helped make this happen” Dougie Vipond, The Adventure Show, BBC2 Scotland.

He was referring to the Event Team of 700 volunteers who have just delivered a Home World Orienteering Championships. A Team that was put together specially for this complex, week-long event that was broadcast live on TV. It was also held in parallel with the biggest ever Scottish 6-days making this the biggest and highest profile orienteering event ever staged in the UK.

It was a good year for Denmark, Ida Bobach World Champion at the finish of the Long Race in Glen Affric. Courtesy Liveblog http://www.woc2015.org/liveblog/long

It was a good year for Denmark, Ida Bobach World Champion at the finish of the Long Race in Glen Affric. Courtesy Liveblog

The Challenge

In May 2012, British Orienteering’s Dave Peel, recruited me into the post of WOC2015 Volunteer Manager, as a volunteer, because he could see that the team needed experience from other major sports events. My brief: Recruit a workforce to deliver the World Championship and support the Scottish 6 Days in a remote part of the UK using volunteers from outside of Scotland, and ensure that most of the orienteering volunteers can take part in most of the 6-Days.

My induction came at WOC2012 in Switzerland. Here I learnt about silent starts and sponsors, quarantines and TV demands and strict International Federation Protocols that govern a World Championships. The London Olympics came soon after WOC, and my role as a Team Leader in the Aquatic Centre was a welcome inspiration.

Recruit

We started by defining roles, identifying what could be done by people without orienteering experience, and recruiting and selecting the right people for different jobs. We had to develop our own recruitment and communication systems and I am grateful to Paul Frost, the SOA Web Developer, who helped me build a very effective volunteer recruitment website which was integrated with MailChimp for our sign-up and communication systems. I also promoted opportunities on the Volunteer Scotland website which enabled us to attract Commonwealth Games volunteers.

Of the volunteers, 120 came from outside of the sport of orienteering to do roles like sprint control marshalling, minibus driving and arena building. 580 were orienteers from all over the UK and Europe.

Volunteers came from orienteering clubs all over the UK and beyond, from local running clubs and parkrun, Volunteer Scotland, Glasgow 2014 and all of the organisations shown above

Volunteers came from orienteering clubs all over the UK and beyond, from local running clubs and parkrun, Volunteer Scotland, Glasgow 2014 and all of the organisations shown above

Prepare

Everyone needed to understand the scale of the World Champs and the orienteers needed to see how it differed from regular multi-day events.  As nothing existed, we developed our own induction and training resources including videos from footage we’d recorded at previous WOCs. We wrote comprehensive briefing instructions for control marshals to make sure they didn’t jeopardise the integrity of a sprint race. We also produced safety and social media guidelines.

My team did some clever stuff with MailChimp to produce team and key contacts lists, and to send tailored, personalized messages to each volunteer, reminding them of their team and role and including relevant inductions. These tailored communications helped us achieve a 100% turnout of volunteers on the day.

Crowds getting ready to watch the Relay in front of Darnaway Castle, Moray

Crowds getting ready to watch the Relay in front of Darnaway Castle, Moray

Support

All of the Event Team needed uniforms, photo accreditation passes and lunches – a significant undertaking. We also identified some unexpected obstacles which were extra challenges to overcome. Helping volunteers find affordable accommodation – we organised a homestay system. Overseas volunteers needed help with transport – we organised lift-sharing. Preparing non-orienteers for the vital role of sprint control guarding – we held a marshal training evening for local volunteers and it was a packed house. We worked closely with the 6-days to ensure that orienteers could have start times that were compatible with their WOC jobs. And there was one challenge that defeated us right until the end – providing helpful travel instructions to volunteers without breaking strict embargo rules of orienteering which keep map and location details strictly confidential until days before the event.

Reflections

Minority sports can benefit from volunteers that are not involved in their sport. For orienteering, volunteers such as local runners, D of E students, and increasingly “Event Volunteer Tourists” can help at big events. And there are well established routes to recruiting them – like www.joininuk.org #BigHelpOut. But it takes an investment in time and the right people to recruit and support these volunteers. When working with volunteers who are not normally part of our specific sport’s culture we mustn’t forget to really look after them – tell them what to bring, train them and give them lunch.

A little bit of legacy

We worked with the Scottish Club Development Officers to offer all the local volunteers – many members of running clubs who had been sprint control marshals – a free entry into events organised by local clubs Moravian, INVOC and BASOC following WOC2015. This was both a thank you and a chance for the volunteers to try the sport that they had seen so closely, for themselves.

Acknowledgements

To all of the individuals and clubs who worked hard in the lead up and during WOC2015:

Thank you and we hope that you were proud to be involved in the biggest and highest profile orienteering event ever held in the UK.

To Paul McGreal, Event Director who skilfully and calmly managed a very complex event – it was a pleasure working with you Paul. I believe that we benefited hugely from Paul’s leadership and his experience as ED for Celtman and World Duathlon Champs.

The heart of my volunteer management team

The heart of my volunteer management team

I’d also like to slip in a special thank you to my own team of 12, and in particular David Maliphant – Comms; Ann Haley – Data; Terry Williams – Newsletters; Craig Lowther – training.  We Skyped every fortnight in the 18 months leading up to WOC and only met for the first time in Nairn.

Postscript Focus Chief Exec's words

This post was published in part in “Orienteering Focus, The Official Voice of British Orienteering” in the Autumn/Winter 2015 Edition

All things to all people – just not at once

As the Volunteer Manager of a big sports event, you might imagine that I get quite a few e-mails. Want to know what I do with them?

I give top priority to messages from……

  • people who are offering to volunteer – they only have me as a point of contact and they deserve to hear from us promptly
  • my own team who are developing and operating our volunteer management processes – I really want to support them and if I hold them up then everything slows down
  • those above me – the Event Directors – they have so much going on, they need their reports to jump when they say jump.

If you are none of the above, and you have contacted me, I will come back to you as soon as I can. I’m a volunteer, and I’m fitting all of this into my spare time.

Your challenge should you choose to take it

We want you to find some volunteers to organise an event – running race marshals, that sort of thing. About 600. It will be exciting – it’s for a World Championship. By the way we are going to hold it in the north of Scotland where there is not a huge local population so you’ll need to bring volunteers in from the rest of the UK. We want the athletes and spectators to have the best experience coming to this event, so the races will be in some of the most beautiful places including one of the most remote glens in Scotland. Of course, we need to build a suitable spectator arena in each of these places, with catering, and facilities for 5000 plus big screens, commentary and TV coverage so we’ll need practical people too.

So far so good.

These marshals that you have found. We need to make sure they all go to the right places, but we cannot tell you where these places are. This is a World Orienteering Championships, it is vital that the athletes do not know where the races start, finish or what route they take. So we are closely guarding this information.

OK, systems in place, we can handle that.

The volunteers that you have recruited from within the sport, you know that they also want to take part in the spectator races on at the same time. Do what you can to organise suitable start times so they can fit in their volunteering shifts.

Getting there….

A day in the life of a Volunteer Manager

The World Orienteering Championships start at the end of July 2015. As a minority sport, this event is being delivered by a tiny group of part-time professionals and a large “Event Team” of volunteers. I’m the Volunteer Manager and I’m a volunteer. Our event team currently stands at 400 and I’m pleased to say that all lead posts have been filled. We are still building the delivery team and expect to reach around 600 volunteers in total.

The event is now hitting the local press and volunteers are pouring into my inbox. We are appointing and organising, informing and introducing, nurturing and updating a workforce that is spread all over the UK and Europe. We have sports people specialising in planning and event organisation. And we have volunteers with experience gained at the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games.  I’d love to be sharing what we are doing as we are doing it. But we are just too busy getting on with it. All I can do for now is share some advice about what I think is helping:

  • start early – thank goodness I started 3 years ago
  • plan for scale – we built and refined our opportunities pages, and our sign up system before the rush
  • build up healthy working relationships – I’m enjoying the strong and trusted relationships that I have with colleagues
  • build a good team around you – my collaborative and good-humoured team are one of the highlights of this event for me. We Skype’s fortnightly and keep in close touch
  • talk to people – you can feel like a real human being, achieve good things, and avoid painful misunderstandings by speaking sometimes instead of e-mailing

A typical day in the life of an Event Volunteer Manager starts at 7, ends at 11, includes a run and far too much time at a computer. It has laughs and lists of lists and occasional desk-thumping frustrations. Overall it is pretty damn good. I haven’t got time to write a day in the life. When it is all over I’ll write about how we did it. Let’s get there first!

Where can you look for volunteers?

Positive cycleVolunteers and volunteering in sport: Some ideas, advice and agencies that can help you.

An extract of my presentation to a recent British Orienteering Conference.

 

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it”

said, George Bernard Shaw, and I agree.

Ever wanted to put your hand up but hesitated in the face of negativity? Ever watched while a single doom-monger, with a well-timed outburst, puts off a whole crowd who are working on a good idea?

You may have just encountered a pessimist. Pessimists will often sound like this: He tried whatever you are suggesting once (just once, mind!) and it didn’t work. She did something similar to what you are suggesting and it didn’t work. They know someone who tried something ……..

What to do? Here’s a simple 3-point plan:

Separate
Dismiss
Gather strength in numbers

Separate yourself from these negative people. You will never change them. They may be people who have always had trouble seeing the positive or they have had a past experience that has put them off.

Dismiss their discouraging remarks for what they are – usually an isolated or historical example not relevant to the plans in progress.

Gather strength in numbers if there are more of you with positive ideas on what CAN be done, stick together. Support each other.

What ever happens, don’t let a lone negative voice disrupt the way of progress and good ideas. If all else fails, quote George Bernard Shaw at them!

And see for here for more inspiration

 

 

Dedicated to my event volunteers

Now we have deflated the finish gantry on the 7th, and my final, Clandon Park Run, I would like to say thank you to the 100 volunteers who have helped on the day – every year. When they agreed to help 7 years ago, many had no idea what was in store and I’m sure this is the only time they put on a high-viz, stand in a field and cheer. I would like to pay tribute to their loyalty.

The Clandon Park Run is like any other charity run. It attracts serious and fun runners and it relies on a lot of volunteers to hand out race numbers and marshal runners round the course. Compared to many charity runs Clandon needs a generous number of volunteers to look after the hundreds of under-18s that take part. What started as a school fundraiser has gained a life of its own as a community event and I think this is what has made it so popular. Every year we are reminded that the local and school communities want to be involved either to run or to volunteer and some volunteers keep coming back long after their children have left the school.

Thank you to all our volunteers – it has been a pleasure to work with you.

We try to look after our volunteers. Here are some of the things we have done that might have helped them to keep coming back:

  • We tell volunteers what they will be doing in advance
    • We describe the different roles and let them choose
    • We tell them that the outside jobs may be in the rain and mud
    • We tell them what hours we need them
  • We prepare them
    • In the first couple of years we held briefings.
    • After that the majority were repeat volunteers and so we dropped the briefings
    • We give “marshal captains” one to one training
    • We tell everyone what to bring on the day
    • And we give written instructions and a map
  • We organise them on the day
    • We put new race marshals near to experienced ones
    • We put groups of volunteers under the leadership of “marshal captains” who check they know what they are doing
    • We organise lift shares if needed
    • We give everyone a drink and some cake!
  • We say thank you afterwards and share some positive feedback

And to let the runners have the final word:

“I really enjoyed the race, and thought it was very well organised. The family particularly enjoyed the atmosphere.” One of the winners

“I wanted to thank you for hosting such a professional, friendly and superbly organised event. From the moment we arrived in your car park to the moment we drove away, the experience was a very special one.  Thank you for all the thought you had clearly put into the organisation and for the warm atmosphere you created on arrival and around the whole 10km course. Well done and a very big thank you.” A group of novice runners supporting a local hospice charity